Boxcar Poems 1 - 12

by John Dorsey

AT LEAD GRAFFITI we have been using the meander book format for a while as part of a design & print workshop experience. We were interested in experimenting with it to produce a more formal piece. As a collaboration, Ohio poet John Dorsey stepped up and wrote these twelve poems as a collection of experiences and events surrounding an abandoned railroad car in the woods near where he grew up.

You never know where and when inspiration will strike. On a road trip during the design stage of the project, Ray and Jill took a wrong turn and stumbled across a railroad museum in Virginia that had this amazing, vintage wooden rail car.

The wood was so incredibly old, cracked and splintered, you knew it had stories to tell. The planks of its wooden sides inspired the colors and pattern of the paste paper we created for the book's cover. Even the paper the poems are printed on has a ribbed texture. Nothing screams "Boxcar!" like old wood. And metal maybe.

As another first for the book, we chose to produce the text by casting it as hot metal slugs on our Intertype C4 linecaster. To commemorate our foray into hot type, we designed and produced 12 small clamshell boxes. Each box would hold a copy of the book and the lead slug used to print the first line of one of the 12 poems. And to top it off, adhered inside the lid of the box was a digital print photo of the inspirational boxcar.

John Dorsey's poems are about memories and echoes of the past. In keeping with that idea, the title of each poem, which is simply its number in the sequence, is printed as a large, ghostly white figure underlying the words. Thanks, John, for letting Lead Graffiti test some letterpress and bookmaking hypotheses on your "train of thoughts."

Meet the poet

John Dorsey is the author of several collections of poetry, including Teaching the Dead to Sing: The Outlaw’s Prayer (Rose of Sharon Press, 2006), Sodomy is a City in New Jersey (American Mettle Books, 2010), Leaves of Ass (Unadorned Press, 2011), Street Maps for Lost Souls (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2012), and White Girl Problems: Poems & Stories (NightBallet Press, 2012). His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He may be reached at

Production notes

BOOK : Boxcar Poems 1 - 12 by John Dorsey

This book is currently available in our Lead Graffiti store online.

Edition : 125 books, signed by John Dorsey and numbered, printed and bound in 2013

  • Deluxe edition (Sold out) numbered 1 through 12 and signed by John Dorsey, each enclosed in a custom clamshell box and accompanied by the type metal slug used to print the corresponding first line of one of the 12 poems
  • Standard edition (Available) of 113 books, numbered 13 through 125 and signed by John Dorsey

Size : 14 pages, 4.25" x 5.25" overall

Binding : Bound by hand in a meander book format

  • Cover boards wrapped outside in boxcar-patterned paste paper, wrapped inside in Canson Mi Tientes dark gray, an attached letterpress-printed title label, and a French 100# Construction cover spine with letterpress-printed title
  • Text block printed on text-weight white Groove paper
  • Pages include title and colophon

Production  :

  • Main text cast on an Intertype C4 linecaster in 14 point Vogue, with handset Clarendon wood type numbers
  • Printed slowly & patiently via letterpress in grey, rust and white inks, on a Vandercook Universal III and SP15

Next book entry : Thunder Road